The Japanese trio of Ai FUKUHARA, Kasumi ISHIKAWA and Mima ITO are the Rio 2016 Olympic Table Tennis Women’s Team Bronze medalists after a 3-1 victory over Singapore.
With her victory, ITO is now the youngest ever medalist to be awarded at an Olympic Table Tennis event at 15 years and 300 days old (including Youth Olympic Games).
The achievement was previously held by China’s GUO Yue when she won claimed the Women’s Doubles Bronze with NIU Jianfeng (CHN) at Athens 2004 at the age of 16 years, 1 month and 3 days old.
Four-time Olympian FUKUHARA (JPN) took on the first singles match against Singapore’s YU Mengyu. The opening match was a thriller with the momentum in the match alternating between the world number eight and thirteen.
The lower ranked YU was the victor in the decider, taking the match 3-2 (4-11, 11-5, 11-3, 4011, 11-5) to give Singapore a 1-0 lead in the battle for Bronze.
ISHIKAWA (JPN) faced off her longtime rival FENG Tianwei (SIN) again on the Olympic stage. Back at the London 2012 Olympic Games, both players competed in the Singles Bronze medal playoff, with FENG winning 4-0 to take home the medal.
Having a 4-9 victory record against the world number four, ISHIKAWA was on fire today, smashing the 2010 World Team Champion 3-0 (12-10, 11-6, 11-7) to level the match 1-1
In the crucial doubles match, FUKUHARA teamed up with 15-year-old ITO to give Japan a 2-1 lead over Singapore by defeating the Singapore pair of YU and ZHOU Yihan 3-1 (9-11, 11-9, 11-1, 14-12).
ITO was the hero of the day for Japan, as she upset FENG in three straight games () to seal the final victory for Japan to clinch Bronze which put all three girls into tears.
“As we worked as a team we could win. I could not win the first game. Without my team it would not have happened. I am forever in debt to them,” stated FUKUHARA in tears of joy after finally securing a Rio 2016 medal.
The 27-year-old who lost her Singles Bronze medal match to KIM Song I (PRK) added “Every single moment was so important. All the matches in the tournament and matches in the past. Ito and I have been playing doubles well together. We tried to refresh after Germany. It meant to much to have her play with me. It is very important to have her in the team.”
Contributing two points for her team victory, ITO stated “I am just happy to win the medal. Before I played Fukuhara and Ishikawa played well. It was because all of us that we got this medal, not just my performance.”
“I am looking forward to getting home and showing my medal to my family and supporters.”
The Women’s Team Gold medal match will be played today, 16 August, between defending Champion China and surprise finalist Germany, at 19:30 Rio time (GMT-3).